Mentoring at sea: yesterday, today, tomorrow

22 Ноя

Cтатья посвящена обеспечению надлежащей профессиональной подготовки моряков как важнейшему фактору безопасной и эффективной эксплуатации судов. Авторы рассматривают все стадии профессиональной подготовки моряка: от кадета до старшего офицера. Особенное внимание уделяется позитивному опыту развития наставничества, а также подготовке членов экипажа судна к действиям в сложной и чрезвычайной обстановке.

Years of seafaring experience prove thai proper and professional training of crew members, especially officers, is the most important condition for the safe and effective employment of ships. Modem officers must possess at least four specific skills:

1. To be able to make reasonable and effective decisions whatever the situation on board, especially under conditions of a high level of responsibility, lack ol tune or both at once.

2. To be able to extend and develop their knowledge independently during complicated working conditions at sea.

3. To be able to effectively apply the practical skills and knowledge obtained in the course ol their training.

4. To be able to analyse their own experience and the experience of their predecessors in the field of management and leadership, and use this experience to draw conclusions.

Acquiring these skills is especially important for those who have sufficient professional knowledge, but have little practical experience of working with people, of organisational or supervisory skills, or in sale performance of operations.

At the same time, junior officers are more likely lo have a closer connection with ratings. They directly supervise seamen and motorinen during the watch at sea and in port, mooring and cargo operations, repairs and preventive measures. The successful performance of shipboard tasks, the safety of cargoes and environment and of people on board depend on their personal, organisational and professional qualities. It is vitally important that junior officers are regularly assisted and supervised by their more experienced senior colleagues in order to improve their professional abilities. Correct mentoring is a powerful way of achieving this.


We should welcome a number of publications which have recently appeared in the marine press dedicated to various aspects of mentoring at sea, including the challenges ol mentoring in present-day conditions, the need to develop and improve mentoring activities onboard ships, and ways of creating and promoting a mentoring culture within the shipping industry as a whole. Captain A. L Le Coubin, the author of The Nautical Institute’s Mentoring at Sea, justifies the importance and usefulness of mentoring in improving the professional skills of officers and ratings. In the preface to this amazing book, former NI President Captain S. Krishnamurthi, FNI says thai ‘Mentoring is also the beginning of an equally rewarding journey for all maritime professionals who long lo share their hard won knowledge and skills across the flimsy boundaries and barriers of nations, cultures and regions’.

In addition to the valuable and useful recommendations contained in the sources mentioned above, we would like to express our own thoughts concerning this issue. Scientific development and seagoing experience show that professionalism consists of:

  • Knowledge.
  • Skills.
  • Abilities.
  • Professional skills.

At the same time, personal qualities such as good memory, self-control, attentiveness, determination, quick reaction and high emotional stability are very important to ships’ officers. Some of these qualities are inherent and some can be acquired in the course of studying, training and working on board. All must become an underlying part of the officer’s character, not just incidental to it. Mentoring, including sharing knowledge, skills and experience with junior officers, must be provided at all stages of professional development, both during study and in the course of working on board.

The first stages

At the beginning of a cadet’s seagoing career, teachers, instructors, and officers of the vessels where cadets spend their initial sea time must perforin the role of mentors.

At this initial stage, it is very important to cultivate a love of the sea and the seafaring profession, a sense of responsibility for behaviour and actions, discipline, and a constant willingness to acquire professional knowledge. It is also crucial to instill the concept of team work, and the elements ot safety culture.

Once employed onboard ship, working officers should be menlored by shoreside specialists — (superintendents, safely officers), as well as by the senior ship’s officers. In this period, mentors should concentrate on eliminating the ‘gaps’ in mentees’ professional knowledge and skills, developing important individual working characteristics, and improving professional efficiency. The basic principle of mentoring onboard ship is ‘Show, not tell’. It goes without saying that mentors themselves should be highly qualified specialists, and have extensive knowledge and experience in practical work. During a voyage, the behaviour, actions, and recommendations of the senior officers will be seen as a real-time model for their junior colleagues.

Mentoring can be made a part of everyday operations. For example, in the ships of the Soviet Union sea fleet, the Chief Officer was on the bridge during the mooring and anchoring operations, and he could learn from captain’s experience regarding situation assessment and necessary actions. In this case, the captain acted as a mentor.

Learning from the past

One example ot efficient mentoring was the system that existed in the shipping companies ot the former Soviet Union. There was a marine inspectorate in each shipping company, which actively employed captains specifically as mentors. Their duties included interviews with navigators when assigning them on the ship, promoting or transferring them to another type of the ship: checking on the professional training, and making recommendations concerning their future work. F.ach captain-mentor was assigned to several ships. He was to visit all the ships of his group, check the organisation of the service on the ship, and render assistance if needed. Engineer-mentors covered the same duties for the engine room.

Evety week, the captain, chief mate and chief engineer held lessons with the crew on the ship, including technical instruction for the ratings. Training sessions for the deck officers included studying the voyage in depth. For this, the whole voyage was divided up into sections. Each navigator was in charge of researching a particular section, then reporting to the group about the conditions and peculiarities of that particular section of voyage, the rules and regulations in each port of call, etc. In addition, navigators studied special lealures of navigation in channels and narrow fairways, anchoring and weighing anchor, mooring operations, cargo works, and maritime safety documents. Seamen studied the ship’s lavout and equipment, execution ot different ship operations and manoeuvres. Motormen and engineers, improved their knowledge of the engine department. Every junior crew member had a more senior mentor, who got him acquainted with peculiarities of ship operations, maintenance ot the machinery and ship’s equipment, watchkeeping on the bridge etc.

Officer-mentors had also a certain personal motivation, since at the monthly meetings of the deck and engine crew members they discussed what had been done, and what defects had been found. As a positive input, they mentioned their participation in experience transfer to the junior seamen.

This mentorship system existed in all marine educational establishments across the Soviet Union: in maritime schools, professional colleges which prepared ratings for the fleet, and in higher marine colleges which taught navigators and engineers. Today, Odessa National Maritime Academy places a high priority on work with cadets.

Individual study groups are united into ‘companies’, companies are united into departments and each of these groups offers opportunities for combining educational work with mentoring.

Dealing with stress

Since the introduction of STCW 1978. marine industries have been taking measures to improve professional training of the crew. However, documents concerning minimum manning, hours of rest, etc. fail to take into account the high physical and emotional pressure, under which crew members are working for considerable periods of time, particularly when working cargo in port. Experience shows that in difficult situations, when there is lack of time to lake decisions, even conscientious, disciplined officers who have good theoretical and practical training often make errors. This is often connected with mental stress, excessive anxiety, worry, and a constant expectation of troubles and accidents. Research carried out in both navigation and other fields of human activity indicates the need for special training for those who work in hazardous conditions, especially in dealing with psychological aspects of the job. This can allow them to act rationally and intentionally even in extreme circumstances.

A significant part of the mentoring role should be in training and developing the personal qualities of junior colleagues. Such qualities as self-control, stamina, and the ability to think clearly and retain presence of mind and high emotional stability are necessary for dynamic activity in extreme situations. It is also very important to pay attention to questions about safeguarding the ship and people onboard. The ultimate aim is to form a stable mental attitude and develop the ability to take safe decisions, while also developing professional skills and an understanding of the human element.


Professor V G Torskiy FNI, Captain V P Topalov, Captain L A Pozolotin MNI


Seaways. — 2014. — October. — P. 21 — 22.